I Hate Everyone
illustrated by Cinta Arribas
(Pow! Kids Books, 2018)
A few words about my book I Hate Everyone—what I said at the book launch, slightly edited.
It's just slightly embarrassing to publish a book with a title like I HATE EVERYONE.
"Hate," as you know, is a strong word.
After I read it to him for the second time my five-year-old grandson Gideon asked me: "Why did you write that book?"
My first answer: I don't know.
That's always my two-year-old grandson Gus's answer: If you ask him "What color is that?" He says, " I don't know. Green."
My second answer: I don't remember. That's true too.
Third answer is that I've worked hard to learn that sometimes in life we don't have the feelings we expect to have, and I have learned it's helpful to pay attention, to notice the feelings we have, not to ignore them.
Also, I noticed that feelings come and go. (Which is what happens in the book.)
When years ago I started intensive psychotherapy and then psychoanalysis, I was a little worried that the therapeutic treatment would take away my need—my semi-secret wish since I was eight years old—to write, to tell stories in books.
What I found is that it has enabled me to say things I never dreamed of saying before.
I've been surprised to see that even just the title makes some people smile, and many people laugh. A few even said, "Hey, who authorized my autobiography?" And I suppose that is because, as Mark Twain once famously said—"Humor is tragedy plus time." Or as William Wordsworth said "poetry is emotion recollected in tranquility."
Well, after the fact, I can say that what I hope I have accomplished in this book is to convey "a complex emotional state that is a regular part of a young child's world; the problem of loving and hating the same people is a difficult issue faced by children and the rest of us, too." (Those are the words of a therapist.)
Besides making people laugh, the title I HATE EVERYONE also seems to make people a little nervous. How could there be a children's book with a title like I HATE EVERYONE? They want to see how it turns out. This makes it suspenseful, if not a thriller, at least a certain kind of page-turner.
This story is set at a birthday party. I suppose we celebrate birthdays because they are milestones, signs that against all odds, thank goodness, we have survived. And so they are sometime fraught with emotions.
Over the years some of my favorite children's books have been about birthdays not being easy.
Russell and Lillian Hoban's A Birthday for Frances, in which Frances goes with her dad to buy a chompo bar as a birthday present for her younger sister Gloria, and as they walk home she nearly eats it herself.
Alfie Gives a Hand by Shirley Hughes, where a little boy bravely goes to a birthday party and then triumphantly puts down the remnants of his security blanket to give a hand to a little girl who might be feeling even shyer than him. (And the birthday boy tosses a present in the air to his mother's consternation.)
Rhuksana Khan's Big Red Lollipop, where the oldest of three sisters in an immigrant family is told by her mother she must bring her middle sister along when she is invited to a classmate's birthday party. And the sibling love that emerges when the middle sister is invited to a party and the oldest sister tells their mother, don't force her to take the youngest sister along.
And if we are looking at literary antecedents, since I am fond of locating myself in traditions, I might also say that in writing this book I was semi-unconsciously ambitiously aspiring to climb up and stand on the shoulders of Maurice Sendak, for Where the Wild Things Are, and Judith Viorst for Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Day.
A word about perseverance. It took me ten years and just over 40 submissions—with several regretful encouraging rejections by publishers along the way, to find a happy home for this, my fourth book for kids. I'm so glad to have found a daring and visionary editor–Jordan Nielsen of Pow Kids Books—for believing in it. And it was Jordan who found, in Cinta Arribas, a wonderful illustrator.
If you do the math, you'll realize I I wrote the text of this book long before President Trump was elected and before hate got to be so much in the news.
A rabbi friend said to me after he read the book, that counseling congregants, he sometimes tells them that the opposite of love is actually not hate, but indifference.
Writing a book, especially a children's book—even one with a title like I HATE EVERYONE—feels to me a little like sending a love letter out into the world where you never know all the people who might read it.
It's my fervent hope that as we go out into our troubled world, we pay attention to hate—and not hate back—but do what we can to turn hate into love.